What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse from a partner, ex-partner or family member. Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, sexual, psychological or financial. Forced marriage and honour based violence are also forms of domestic violence.

Does domestic violence only happen in certain cultures or classes?

Research shows that domestic violence is most commonly experienced by women and perpetrated by men. Women can also experience domestic violence from female partners or female family members. Any woman can experience domestic violence regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability, sexuality or lifestyle. There is no evidence to suggest that abuse is more common among any particular group in society.

What is the official definition of domestic violence?

The Government defines domestic violence as “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional.” This includes issues of concern to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities such as “honour based violence”.

Why does it happen?

All forms of domestic violence – psychological, financial, sexual, emotional and physical – come from the abuser’s desire for power and control over other family members or intimate partners. Although every situation is unique, there are common factors involved.

What are the signs of domestic violence?

Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: This may include shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling and threatening.

Pressure tactics: This may include sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you and telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.

Disrespect: This may include persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking and refusing to help with childcare or housework.

Breaking trust: This may include lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships and breaking promises or shared agreements.

Isolation: This may include monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go and  preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.

Denial: This may include saying that the abuse doesn’t happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being  gentle and patient in public, crying and begging for forgiveness and saying it will never happen again.

Harassment: This may include following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, checking to see who has telephoned you and embarrassing you in public.

Threats: This may include making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, wielding a knife or a gun and threatening to kill or harm you and the children.

Sexual violence: This may include using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex and any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.

Physical violence: This may include punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning or strangling.

Is it a crime?

Domestic violence includes a number of different behaviours and consequences (as listed above), so there is no single criminal offence of ‘domestic violence’. Instead, there are several categories within the law that constitute a criminal offence that may also be defined as domestic violence. Criminal offences can include: assault, threat to kill, harassment, putting people in fear of violence, rape, sexual assault and coercive control

What is the cost of domestic violence?

The estimated total cost of domestic violence to society in monetary terms is £23 billion per annum. This figure includes an estimated £3.1 billion as the cost to the state and £1.3 billion as the cost to employers and human suffering cost of £17 billion. The estimated total cost to the state is based on the following:

Criminal justice system – £1 billion per annum (this represents one quarter of the criminal justice budget for violent crime including the cost of homicide to adult women annually of £112 million).

Health (NHS) – £1.2 billion (including mental health care estimated at an additional £176 million). Social services – £0.25 billion.

Housing – £0.16 billion.

Civil legal services – £0.3 billion. (Walby, 2004).

The statistics collated by Walby above are recognised as an under-estimate because public services don’t collect information on the extent to which their services are used as a result of domestic violence. The research doesn’t include costs to those areas for which it was difficult to collect any baseline information – for example cost to social services work with vulnerable adults, cost to education services, the human cost to children, of children moving schools and the impact this has on their education, excludes the cost of therapeutic and other support within the voluntary sector.

Key statistics: How common is domestic violence?

1 in 4 women experience domestic violence over their lifetime. (Office of National Statistics, 2016)

Domestic abuse-related crimes recorded by the police in the year ending March 2017 accounted for 32% of all violent crimes. (Office of National Statistics, 2017)

On average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. (Office of National Statistics, 2017)

On average the police receive over 100 calls relating to domestic abuse every hour. (Office of National Statistics, 2017)

There are 53 reports of domestic violence each day in Leeds. (Safer Leeds, 2017)

In 2017, West Yorkshire Police dealt with over six incidents of domestic violence every hour. (West Yorkshire Police, 2017)

If you need help here are some suggestions.

If you stay: If you are living in an abusive relationship and are not ready to leave, you must keep yourself and your children safe. Whatever your reasons for staying, you do not deserve to be abused. If you decide to stay with your partner and work things out, seek outside help. See a counsellor who does not blame you for the abuse and who puts your safety first.

Sometimes women have to leave in a hurry. This might be when, for them, the relationship is over. It might be to escape a particular assault, or to take a break for safety and the time and space to plan and think about things.

Making a crisis plan can help you feel more in control and give you more confidence. This is just a suggested plan of action, which you can add to, or change.

– Find somewhere you can quickly and easily use a phone.
– Carry with you a list of emergency numbers.
– Include friends, relatives, local police, Women’s Aid, (even well known numbers can be forgotten in a panic).
– Try to save some money for bus, train, taxi fares.
– Have an extra set of keys for house, flat, car. – Keep the keys, money and a set of clothes for you and the children packed ready in a bag that you can get quickly.

– If you have more time to plan leaving do as much as possible of the following: – Leave when your abuser is not around
– Take all of your children with you.
– Take your legal and financial papers, i.e. marriage and birth certificates, court orders, national health cards, passports, driving licence, benefit books, address book, bank books, tenancy agreements, rent book etc. – Take any of your personal possessions, which have sentimental value – photographs or jewellery for example.
– Take favourite toys for the children
– Take clothing for at least several days
– Take any medicine you or your children might need

If you do leave and later discover you have forgotten something, you can always arrange for the protection of a police escort to return home to collect it.

No one has the right to abuse you.
It is not a private family matter- it’s a crime.
There is never an excuse.

Information to consider if you are being abused.

You are not the only one: Research shows that around one in four women experience domestic violence. It happens to women of all ages, classes, races, religions, sexualities, abilities, and levels of intelligence and to women with and without children.

You are not to blame: You are not responsible for the violence. Your abuser has choices about how to react such as walking away until he is calmer

You cannot change your abuser’s behaviour: You have probably noticed that it doesn’t make much difference what you do to pacify your abuser; they are violent anyway. The only way they can change is if they realise they have a problem and seek help.

Domestic violence is dangerous: It rarely happens only once. Usually the violence gets more serious the longer it goes on. Many abusers go to pieces after an assault or if their partners threaten to leave them. They can be very sorry and promise to stop the violence, give up drinking etc. Women sometimes feel sorry for them, believe them and agree to stay. Unfortunately, experience shows that changes rarely last. Sadly, for some women, what began as a slap ended in murder.

Break the silence – don’t remain isolated: You have nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t keep the violence a secret. You need support and there are people who will help. However, there are still people who wrongly believe that it’s OK for a man to hit his partner or that it is her fault if he does. Choose the people you talk with carefully. Don’t suffer alone.

There is life after domestic violence: Many women start new and rewarding lives and discover that they enjoy living without a partner. Some start new loving relationships, which they never believed were possible when they were with their violent partner. Women find out that the things their abusers told them (‘you’re stupid/ugly/useless/no-one else would have you/you’ll never make it on your own/etc’) were wrong.

“But my particular situation makes it harder”

For instance: Disabled women experience discrimination and oppression. This may make you feel you should be ‘grateful’ if someone forms an intimate relationship with you, particularly if they are non-disabled. You may fear that other people will not believe you or will tell you to be more ‘understanding’ of the pressures he is under. If your home is specially adapted you may want to stay, but will you be safe? If your abuser is your carer, how will you cope without him/ her? Is institutionalisation the only option? How can you find a solicitor whose office is accessible? How can you leave without an income?

Black, minority ethnic, migrant and refugee women also face particular problems as do lesbians, older women and Travelling women. Although your circumstances may mean that there are additional obstacles for you to face, it is still possible for you to take action. There are things you can do and people who can help.

Many women find that domestic violence seriously damages their confidence. You may feel that you are not worth the effort or that you must have done something bad to cause the abuse. Although it can be hard, remember you are strong (you’ve survived so far!) and you are a person of value.

Some points to think about:

– Do you have enough time to talk to someone on our telephone helpline?
– Could you attend a drop in session to find out more about the options available to you?
– How safe would you feel, talking to a helpline worker?
– Does your partner know where you are living?
– Do you think s/he will attempt to find you? – Can s/he find out your whereabouts from someone e.g. relative, friend, school?
– Are there places you have to go that he might know about e.g. DSS, schools? Is there a way you can change your routine?
– Do you have a neighbour who would call the police in an emergency?
– Is there a way you can let the neighbour know you need help?
– Can you arrange code words with family and friends to let them know on the telephone that you are not safe?
– Are there any safety precautions that you feel might help in your home e.g. a room that you can lock, access to keys to front or back door, telephones?
– Do you have a spare set of keys which you can keep at someone else’s house – to provide access to the house in an emergency?
– Can you keep copies of important documents and/or money somewhere safe, either with a friend or on her person?
– Are you aware that an abuser could trace you by dialling 1471, pressing last number recall or itemised phone bills?
– Do you have emergency contact numbers?
– If you are thinking of leaving, you may want to think about other parts of the city/ country where you may be at risk e.g. his place of work, where his family or friends